Monday, May 23, 2022

The IRS Caught Dumping A Collection Case

Let’s look at a taxpayer win on an issue not known for taxpayer wins.

Thomas Hamilton was an attorney and Edith Hamilton was a chaplain. They filed a 2016 tax return showing tax due of almost $72 thousand. They however did not pay the tax in full.

The IRS assessed.

The IRS then issued a Notice of Federal Tax Lien (NFTL) to secure its assessment.

This presented a procedural option: the Hamiltons could request a Collection Due Process (CDP) hearing. If they could work-out a payment agreement perhaps they might avoid the lien. Liens can be embarrassing.

They requested a CDP hearing.  

The IRS Settlement Officer (SO) asked for a lot of information, including:

(1)  Proof of 2018 estimated tax payments

(2)  Their 2017 personal tax return

(3)  Six months of bank statements

(4)  Three months of pay stubs

(5)  Proof of various expenses for the preceding three months

The SO also wanted the law practice to catch-up on its (mostly payroll-related) tax returns from 2015 through 2017.

The SO did stagger some of the due dates for the above: some were due on October 17, others were due October 24. The hearing itself was November 15, 2018.

The Hamiltons did not provide any documents by October 24.

Oh oh.

They did write a letter on October 31, explaining that their (now) previous bookkeeper failed to keep many documents, a fact which came to light as they were trying to comply with the SO’s request. They hired a CPA, who was helping reconstruct records as well as representing them during the CDP hearing. Finally, they had reordered online bank statements and would forward the requested documentation as soon as possible. They reiterated their desire for a payment plan.

Let me retract the “oh oh” comment, although they should have responded – in some manner - by the October 17 date.

Why? To discourage the SO from thinking that they were stalling.  

Between November 2 and November 15, the Hamiltons sent five faxes totaling hundreds of pages. They sent bank statements, copies of bills and some (but not all) of the payroll tax returns for the law practice.

The day before the hearing they also faxed personal and business financial information (Forms 433-A and 433-B) as well as a copy of their 2017 individual tax return and its electronic acceptance by the IRS.

The SO had spent no time on the case from October 1 to the date of the hearing, when she spent an hour preparing beforehand.

At the hearing the SO pressed on the following:

·      They had not filed their 2017 individual tax return.

·      They had not provided proof of their expenses.

·      They were not making 2018 estimated tax payments.

·      They had not filed payroll returns for the law practice.   

The CPA chimed in:

·      They had filed their 2017 tax return and provided proof of electronic acceptance by the IRS.

·      They had provided bank statements and documentation for the vast majority of their expenses.

·      They would be current with their 2018 estimated taxes as soon as the following month.

·      They had file some of the payroll returns the SO was considering unfiled.

The SO said she would recommend filing the NFTL.

Mr Hamilton requested additional time to provide the missing information.

The SO said: no chance.

The IRS sustained the filing of the NFTL for 2016 and also rejected their request for an installment agreement.

Sheesshh. That CDP hearing blew up.

And so we get to Tax Court.

Let’s set up the issue:

·      There was a proposed lien

·      To which taxpayers requested a CDP hearing

·      And got turned down for not complying with the SO’s documentation requests

You can take one of these to Tax Court, but it is very tough to win. In short, you must show that the IRS was capricious and abused its discretion. 

The Court went through the file:

1. The Hamiltons sent an 11-page fax on November 9. The fax included one of the payroll tax returns the SO considered missing.

    The SO had included the fax cover sheet in her record.

    But not the other 10 pages.

    One wonders how accurate the SO’s records were.

    Human error, one supposes.

2. They had filed their 2017 individual tax return and had faxed the SO a copy. They had also informed her of this filing at the hearing.

    But the SO had included the non-filing as a reason for her bounce.


3. Between November 2 and the November 15 hearing date, they had sent at least five faxes, totaling hundreds of pages of financial documentation

    But the SO said they had not provided documentation.

    Here is the Court:

The failure of the administrative record to capture some documents makes us question the completeness of the administrative record that the settlement officer considered and that we are reviewing.

    And here the case turned.

    The third strike.

The Court pointed out that the Hamiltons made efforts to keep the SO apprised – of the bookkeeper debacle, of the request for copies of documents and bank statements. They asked the SO to apprise them of any questions or issues while they could still react.

Then the Court emphasized that the SO had not even looked at the file until the day of the hearing.

The hearing where she nonetheless chastised the Hamiltons for not having provided all the paperwork.

Here is the Court:

She did not take them up on that offer; her doing so would have allowed the Hamiltons to address any issues before the November 15, 2018 hearing.”

The Court continued:

… the settlement officer made up her mind after a cursory one-hour review of the Hamiltons’ materials and failed to give proper consideration to the issues they raised …”

The cumulative effect of the settlement officer’s conduct in this case was to deprive the Hamiltons of fair consideration of their issues and concerns. The Hamilton’s conduct was by no means perfect, but it reflected consistent cooperation and good-faith effort throughout the CDP process.”

The SO’s decision was found arbitrary and lacking sound basis in fact or law.

The case was returned to IRS Appeals for another hearing.

The SO had gotten the case off her desk.

But she had not done her job.

And there you have a rare taxpayer win in the CDP arena.

Our case this time was Hamilton v Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2022-21.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Company’s Tuition Payment Was Not Deductible


Let me give you a fact pattern and you tell me whether there is a tax deduction.

·      You own a company.

·      A young man is dating your daughter.

·      The young man wants to take a computer course at Northwestern University. If it turns out he has both aptitude and interest, perhaps he can maintain the company’s website, at least for a while.

·      The company pays for the course.

Let me up the ante: is there a tax deduction to you and tax-free income to the young man?

You are thinking: maybe.

For example, my firm pays for my expenses when I attend professional seminars or conferences. Then again, my CPA license carries a continuing education requirement, so the seminars and conferences are necessary for me keep my gig as a practicing CPA.

Sounds like a working condition fringe benefit. The “working condition” qualifier means that the employer is paying for something that the employee could deduct (at least before the tax Code nixed miscellaneous itemized deductions) had the employee paid for it.

Alternatively, there are companies who pay (or help pay) tuition for employees who go to college. There are hitches to this educational assistance arrangement, though: it has to be available to everybody, cannot discriminate in favor of highly-compensated employees, and so on.

I am not seeing a tax deduction down either path. Why? Notice that a fringe benefit or assistance program requires an employer:employee relationship. You have no such relationship with the young man.

I suppose you could make him an employee.

No, you say.  Dating your daughter does not put him on the payroll.

You circle back to the possibility that he could take care of your website, at least for a while. That costs money to do. If he did so for free, or at a substantially reduced rate, the cost of that course could be a drop in the bucket compared to what you would have paid a webmaster.

OK. I am certain that the tuition is more than $600, so you pay for the course, send him a 1099 and he will have to settle-up while he files his tax return. On the upside, he should get a tax credit for taking that course.

Nope, you say. You want to deduct it as a business expense but not issue a W-2 or a 1099. None of that.

And that is how Robert and Swanette Ward appeared before the Tax Court. Clearly the IRS disagreed with the tax outcome they wanted.

Here is the Court:

While [] has provided services to Sherwin [CTG: Mrs Ward’s company] free of charge that would likely have cost Sherwin more than the amount of the tuition, we nonetheless find that the petitioners have not established that Sherwin is entitled to deduct the tuition.”

Why not?

Mr [] was not an employee of Sherwin.”

Yes, but what of the possibility that he would help with the website?

The Wards did not have an agreement with Mr [] that he would perform any services in exchange for the tuition payment.”

What, do you want a written contract or something?

Sherwin paid the tuition without any expectation of a return and thus did not have a business purpose for the payment. The tuition was a personal expense, and Sherwin is not entitled to deduct it.”

Why is the Court is circling the wagons on this one?

Folks, sometimes tax law occurs in the folds and the corners. There is something I have not yet told you that might explain the Court’s obstinacy.

That young man eventually married your daughter.

The Court saw a personal expense all the way.

I get it.

There is a distinction in the Code between deductible business expenses and nondeductible personal expenses. One could reason that showing some business angle or benefit – however abstract or hypothetical – can make the expense deductible, even if the primary factor for incurring the expense was personal. One would be wrong, but one could reason.

Our case this time was Sherwin Community Painters Inc v Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2022-19.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Part Time Bookkeeper, Big Time Penalty


We filed another petition with the Tax Court this week.

For a client new to the firm.

Much of this unfortunately was ICDIM: I can do it myself. The client did not understand how the IRS matches information. There was an oddball one-off transaction, resulting in nonstandard tax reporting. Stir in some you-do-not-know-what-you-do-not-know (YDNKWYDNK), some COVIDIRS202020212022 and now I am involved.

I am looking at case that just screams YDNKWYDNK.

Here is part of the first paragraph:

This case is before the Court on a Petition for review of a Notice of Determination Concerning Collection Action(s) Under Section 6320 and/or 6330, dated February 13, 2018 (notice of determination). The notice of determination sustained a notice of federal tax lien (NFTL) filing (NFTL filing) with respect to trust fund recovery penalties (TFRPs) under section 6672. The TFRPs were assessed against petitioner for failing to collect and pay over employment taxes owed by Urgent Care Center, Inc. (Urgent Care), for taxable quarters ending June 30 and September 30, 2014 (periods at issue), resulting in outstanding liabilities of $6, 184.23 and $4, 190.77, respectively.

That section 6330 is hard procedural, and it is going to hurt.

Mr Kazmi was a bookkeeper. He worked part-time at Urgent Care. Urgent Care did not remit employment taxes for a stretch, and unfortunately that stretch included the period when Mr Kazmi was there.

We are talking the big boy penalty, otherwise known as the responsible person penalty. The point of the penalty is to migrate the tax due to someone who had enough authority and responsibility to have paid the IRS but chose not to.

Mr Kazmi had no ownership interest in Urgent Care. He was not an officer. He was not a signatory on any bank accounts. He had no authority to decide who got paid. At all times he worked under the authority of the person who owned the place (Dr Senno). What he did have was a tax power of attorney.

Folks, I probably have a thousand tax powers of attorney out there.

Sounds to me like Mr Kazmi was the least responsible person (at least for payroll taxes) at Urgent Care.

The IRS Revenue Officer (RO) thought otherwise and on December 16, 2015 issued Mr Kazmi a letter 1153, a letter which said “tag, you are a responsible party; have a nice day.”

From what I am reading, this was a preposterous position. I generally have respect for ROs, but this one is a bad apple.  

Still, there are consequences.

Procedurally Mr Kazmi had 60 days to challenge the 1153.

He did not.


He did not know what he did not know.

A little time passed and the IRS came for its money. It wanted a lien. It also wanted a vanilla waffle ice cream cone.

Mr Kazmi yelled: Halt! He filed for a Collection Due Process (CDP) hearing. In the paperwork he included the obvious:

I am just a part-time bookkeeper. I am not responsible for collection or accounting or making payments for any tax payments for Urgent Care.

Makes sense.

Doesn’t matter.

He did not know what he did not know.

Let’s talk about the “one bite at the apple” rule.  In the current context, the rule means that a taxpayer cannot challenge an underlying liability if he/she already had a prior opportunity to do so.

One bite.

Mr Kazmi had his one bite when he received his letter 1153. You remember – the one he blew off.

He was now in CDP wanting to challenge the penalty. He wanted a second bite.

Not going to get it.

CDP was happy to talk about a payment plan and deadbeat taxpayers and whatnot. What it wouldn’t do was talk about whether Mr Kazmi deserved the penalty chop to begin with.

I am not a fan of such hard procedural. The vast majority of us will go a lifetime having no interaction with the IRS, excepting perhaps a minor notice now and then. It seems unreasonable to hold an average someone to stringent and obscure rules, rules that most attorneys and CPAs – unless they are tax specialists – would themselves be unaware of.

Still, it is what it is.

Does Mr Kazmi have any options left?

I think so.

Maybe a request for reconsideration.

Odds? So-so, maybe less.

A liability offer in compromise?

I like that one better.

Folks, it would have been much easier to pop this balloon back when the IRS trotted out that inappropriate letter 1153.

Mr Kazmi did not know what he did not know.

Our case this time was Kazmi v Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2022-13.


Saturday, April 30, 2022

Basis Basics

I am looking at a case involving a basis limitation.

Earlier today I accepted a meeting invite with a new (at least to me) client who may be the poster child for poor tax planning when it comes to basis.

Let’s talk about basis – more specifically, basis in a passthrough entity.

The classic passthrough entities are partnerships and S corporations. The “passthrough” modifier means that the entity (generally) does not pay its own tax. Rather it slices and dices its income, deductions and credits among its owners, and the owners include their slice in their own respective tax returns.

Make money and basis is an afterthought.

Lose money and basis becomes important.


Because you can deduct your share of passthrough losses only to the extent that you have basis in the passthrough.

How in the world can a passthrough have losses that you do not have basis in?

Easy: it borrows money.

The tax issue then becomes: can you count your share of the debt as additional basis?

And we have gotten to one of the mind-blowing areas of passthrough taxation.  Tax planners and advisors bent the rules so hard back in the days of old-fashioned tax shelters that we are still reeling from the effect.

Let’s start easy.

You and I form a partnership. We both put in $10 grand.

What is our basis?

                                     Me             You

         Cash                  10,000       10,000                  


The partnership buys an office condo for $500 grand. We put $20 grand down and take a mortgage for the rest.

What is our basis?

                                     Me             You

         Cash                  10,000       10,000                  

         Mortgage        240,000       240,000

                                250,000       250,000

So we can each have enough basis to deduct $250,000 of losses from this office condo. Hopefully that won’t be necessary. I would prefer to make a profit and just pay my tax, thank you.

Let’s change one thing.

Let’s make it an S corporation rather than partnership.

What is our basis?

                                     Me             You

         Cash               10,000        10,000                   

         Mortgage             -0-              -0-

                                10,000        10,000


Welcome to tax law.

A partner in a general partnership gets to increase his/her basis by his/her allocable share of partnership debt. The rule can be different for LLC’s taxed as a partnership, but let’s not get out over our skis right now.       

When you and I are partners in a partnership, we get to add our share of the mortgage - $480,000 – to our basis.

S corporations tighten up that rule a lot. You and I get basis only for our direct loans to the S corporation. That mortgage is not a direct loan from us, so we do not get basis.

What does a tax planner do?

For one thing, he/she does not put an office condo in an S corporation if one expects it to throw off tax losses.

What if it has already happened?

I suppose you and I can throw cash into the S. I assure you my wife will not be happy with that sparkling tax planning gem.

I suppose we could refinance the mortgage in our own names rather than the corporate name.

That would be odd if you think about. We would have personal debt on a building we do not own personally.

Yeah, it is better not to go there.

The client meeting I mentioned earlier?

They took a partnership interest holding debt-laden real estate and put it inside an S corporation.

Problem: that debt doesn’t create basis to them in the S corporation. We have debt and no tax pop. Who advised this? Someone who should not work tax, I would say.

I am going to leverage our example to discuss what the Kohouts (our tax case this time) did that drew the Tax Court’s disapproval.               

Let’s go back to our S corporation. Let’s add a new fact: we owe someone $480,000. Mind you, you and I owe – not the S corporation. Whatever the transaction was, it has nothing to do with the S corporation.

We hatch the following plan.

We put in $240,000 each.

You: OK.

We then have the corporation pay the someone $480,000.

You: Hold up, won’t that reduce our basis when we cut the check?

Ahh, but we have the corporation call it a “loan” The corporation still has a $480,000 asset. Mind you, the asset is no longer cash. It is now a “loan.”  Wells Fargo and Fifth Third do it all the time.

You: Why would the corporation lend someone $480,000? Wells Fargo and Fifth Third are at least … well, banks.

You have to learn when to stop asking questions.

You: Are we going to have a delay between putting in the cash and paying - excuse me - “loaning” someone $480,000?

Nope. Same day, same time. Get it over with. Rip the band-aid.

You: Wouldn’t a Court have an issue with this if we get caught … errr … have the bad luck to get audited?

Segue to our court case.

In Kohout the Court considered a situation similar enough to our example. They dryly commented:

Courts evaluating a transaction for economic substance should exercise common sense …”

The Court said that all the money sloshing around could be construed as one economic transaction. As the money did not take even a breather in the S corporation, the Court refused to spot the Kohouts any increase in basis.

Our case this time was Kohout v Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2022-37.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

A Model Home As A Business


What does a tax CPA do a few days after the filing deadline?

This one is reviewing a 17-page Tax Court case.

Yes, I would rather be watching the new Batman movie. There isn’t much time for such things during busy season. Maybe tomorrow.

Back to the case.

There is a mom and dad and daughter. Mom and dad (the Walters) lived in Georgia. They had launched three successful business in Michigan during the 70s and 80s. They thereafter moved to Georgia to continue their winning streak by developing and owning La-Z-Boy stores.

During the 90s dad invested in and subsequently joined the board of an environmentally oriented Florida company. He followed the environmental field and its technology, obtained certifications and even guest lectured at Western Carolina University.

Daughter received an undergraduate degree in environmental science and then a law degree at a school offering a focus on environmental law.

After finishing law school, daughter informed her parents that she was not interested in the furniture business. Mom and dad sold the La-Z-Boy businesses but kept the real estate in an entity called D&J Properties. They were now landlords to La-Z-Boy stores.

The family decided to pivot D&J by entering the green real estate market.

Through the daughter’s connections, mom and dad became aware of a low-density housing development in North Carolina, emphasizing land conservation and the incorporation of geothermal and solar technologies.

You know this caught dad and daughter’s attention.

They bought a lot. They built a house (Balsam Home). They stuck it in D&J Properties. The house received awards. Life was good.

They received an invitation to participate in a “Fall Festival of Color.” Current and potential property owners would tour Balsam Home, meet with members of the team and attend a panel discussion. Word went out to the media, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Balsam Home became a model home for the development. Awards and certificates were hung on the walls, pamphlets about green technology were placed on coffee tables. A broker showed Balsam Home when mom and dad were back at their regular residence.

Sometimes the line blurred between model home and “home” home. Mom and dad registered cars at the Balsam Home address, for example, and dad availed himself of a golf membership. On the flip side, the green technology required one to be attentive and hands-on, and mom and dad did most of that work themselves.

Where is the tax issue here?

Balsam Home never showed a profit.

The La-Z-Boy stores did.

The IRS challenged D&J Properties, arguing that Balsam Home was not a business activity conducted for profit and therefore its losses could not offset the rental income from the furniture stores.

This “not engaged in for profit” challenge is more common than you may think. I am thinking of the following from my own recent-enough experience:

·      A mom supporting her musically inclined twin sons

·      A young golfer hoping to go pro

·      A model certain to be discovered

·      A dancer determined she would join a professional company

·      A dressage rider meeting “all the right people” for later success

The common thread is that some activity does not make money, seems likely to never make money but is nonetheless pursued and continued, normally by someone having (or subsidized by someone having) enough other income or wealth to do so. It can be, in other words, a tax write-off.

But then again, someone will be the next Bruno Mars, Scottie Scheffler or Stevie Nicks. Is it a long shot? Sure, but there will be someone.

Not surprisingly, there is a grid of questions that the IRS and courts go through to weigh the decision. It is not quite as easy as having more “yes” than “no” answers, but you get the idea.

Here is a (very) quick recap of the grid:

·      Manner in which taxpayer carried on the activity

·      Taxpayer’s expertise

·      Taxpayer’s advisors’ expertise

·      Time and effort expended by the taxpayer

·      Expectation that activity assets will appreciate in value

·      Success of the taxpayer on carrying on similar activities

·      History of activity income and loss

·      Financial status of the taxpayer

·      Elements of personal pleasure or recreation

Let’s review a few.

·      Seems to me that mom, dad and daughter had a fairly strong background in green technology. The IRS disagreed, arguing “yes this but not that.”  The Court disagreed with the IRS.

·      Turns out that mom and dad put a lot of time into Balsam House, and much of that time was as prosaic as fertilizing, weeding and landscaping. The Court gave them this one.

·      Being real estate, it was assumed that the asset involved would appreciate in value.

o  BTW this argument is often used in long-shot race-horse challenges. Win a Kentucky Derby, for example, and all those losses pale in comparison to the future income.

·      I expected financial status to be a strong challenge by the IRS. Mom and dad owned those La-Z-Boy stores, for example. The Court took pains to point out that they had sold the stores but kept the real estate, so the ongoing income was not comparable. The Court called a push on this factor, which I considered quite generous.

The Court decided that the activity was conducted for profit and that losses could be used to offset income from the furniture stores.

A win for the taxpayers.

Could it have gone differently?

You bet. Court decisions in this area can be … quixotic.  

Our case this time was Walters v Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2022-17.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Losing Deductions By Not Filing A Tax Return

I have become increasingly reluctant to accept a nonfiler as a client. That said, a partner somehow sneaks one or two a year into Command Center, and I – reluctant or not – become involved. It would not be so bad if it was just a matter of catching-up with the paperwork, but often one needs to stave off Collections, establish a payment plan, request penalty abatement (done after the taxes are paid, meaning I have to monitor it in my spare time) and on-and-on.

Try doing this during IRSCOVID202020212022. It is zero fun.

I am looking at a nonfiler that took a self-inflicted wound.

Let’s talk about Shawn Salter.

Salter was a loss prevention manager over 10 Home Depot stores in Arizona.  He worked from home but drove regularly to his stores. Home Depot offered to reimburse his mileage, but he turned it down. He thought that claiming the mileage on his return would give him a bigger refund.

COMMENT: Well, yes, as he was paying out-of-pocket for gasoline and wear-and-tear on his car. Clearly he is not a Warren Buffet successor.

Salter got laid off in 2013.

He took money out of his IRA to get through, but that is not the point of our discussion today.

He needed to file a 2013 return so he could get that tax refund, especially since he turned down the opportunity to be reimbursed.

What did he not do?

He did not file a 2013 return.

Eventually the IRS figured it out and asked for a tax return.

Salter blew it off.

The IRS prepared a “substitute for return.” You do not want the IRS to do this, by the way. The IRS will file you as single with no dependents (whether you are or not), include all your gross income and do its very best to not spot you any deductions. It is intentionally designed to maximize your tax liability.

The IRS wanted over $6 grand in tax, with all the assorted interest and penalty toppings.

Now Salter cared.

He told the IRS that he had used H&R Block software to file his return.

The IRS clarified that it had no 2013 tax return, either from H&R Block or from anyone else. Send us a copy, they said.

He did not have a copy to send. He did not have certified mail receipts or record of electronic filing. He had nothing.

Hard to persuade anyone with nothing.

Here is the Court:

We find that the petitioner did not file a return for 2013, ...”

This created a problem.

Salter wanted to claim that mileage, meaning that he needed to itemize his deductions.


Not OK. There is a tax issue.

Which is …?

Did you know that itemizing your deductions is considered a tax election?

And …?

You have to file a tax return to make the election.

Easy, you say, Salter should prepare and file a 2013 return claiming itemized deductions. Doing so is the election.

Too late. That window closed when the IRS prepared the substitute for return. The substitute is considered a return, and it did not itemize. Remember how a substitute works: income is reported at gross; deductions are grudgingly given, if given at all. 

No mileage. No deduction. No refund. Tax due.

As we said: self-inflicted wound.

Our case this time was Salter v Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2022-29.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Can $2 Million Be An Honest Mistake?


It is a good idea to look over your tax return before hitting the “Send” button.

Why? Because things happen. Some prep software approximates a black box. It asks questions, you provide numbers and together they go someplace hidden from the eyes of man. Granted, most times the result is just fine. But there are those times ….

Let’s talk about Candice and Randall Busch.

They were preparing their 2017 tax return using a popular tax software, which shall remain nameless. They reached the point where the software wanted mortgage interest. Easy enough. They entered “21,201.25.”


The software did not accept pennies.

This means that 21,201.25 went in as 2,120,125.

That, folks, is a lot of mortgage interest.

BTW one cannot deduct that much mortgage interest on a principal residence. Why? The mortgage interest deduction had been capped for many years as interest paid on the first $1 million of indebtedness. Let’s say someone paid $62,000 on $2 million of principal residence debt. The tax preparer should have caught this and limited the deduction as follows:

         62,000 * 1,000,000/2,000,000 = 32,000

The $1,000,000 cap was further reduced to $750,000 in 2017.

The tax Code has no intention of allowing an unlimited deduction for this type of interest.

Is it ever possible to get past the $1,000,000 (or $750,000) limitation? Well, yes, and it happens all the time. Borrow money on commercial real estate (say a strip mall) and there is no limitation. Borrow money on residential real estate - as long as it is not a principal residence - and there is no limitation. An example would be an apartment complex.  The limitation we are discussing is personal and involves debt on your house.

Back to the Busch’s.

They sound like average folk.

That mistake made their tax refund go through the roof.

They liked that answer.

They sent in the return.

The IRS flagged the return, which was not hard to do when the interest deduction was larger than the allowed debt for purposes of calculating the deduction itself.

The IRS wanted the excess refund back.

The Busch’s would do that.     

Then the IRS also wanted a heavy penalty (the accuracy-related penalty, for the home gamers).

The Busch’s said they wouldn’t do that. An exception to the accuracy-related penalty is reasonable cause, and they had reasonable cause all day long and three times on the weekend.

And what was that reasonable cause, asked the IRS.

It was an “honest mistake,” they replied.

Off to Tax Court they went.

The Busch’s represented themselves, the lingo for which is “pro se.”

The Court acknowledged that mistakes happen. One can get distracted and enter a wrong number, one can transpose, one can get surprised by what a software might do.

But that is not the mistake here.

The mistake here was failing to review the return before sending.

The biggest number on the return – literally – was that interest deduction. It hung over the form like a Big Texan 72-ounce steak on a normal-sized dinner plate.

Here is the Court:

A careful review of the return after it was prepared would most certainly have caught the error; actually, even as little as a quick glance at the return probably would have done so.”

The Busch’s got stuck with the penalty.